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Journalism school linked to The Hindu’s N Ram invites man convicted in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to deliver a lecture, try to paint him innocent

N Ram of The Hindu is the founding trustee of the Media Development Foundation, which owns and runs ACJ, which is now hosting a criminal.

Asian College of Journalism, one of the premier institutions for journalism has invited AG Perarivalan, convicted in the assassination of former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, for a guest lecture. Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) based in Chennai comes under the aegis of the Media Development Foundation headed by journalist Sashi Kumar. The Hindu’s N. Ram is also a founding trustee of the Media Development Foundation.

The guest lecture is organised by Project 39A, which is an initiative of the National Law University Delhi. Project 39A also has a chapter at ACJ and the lecture by the convicted criminal will be held at the ACJ venue.

According to the Project 39A website, the lecture is supposed to be held on the 17th of December at the MS Subbulakshmi auditorium at the Asian College of Journalism.

While Project 39A and the ACJ have tried their best to paint the convicted man as an innocent man hounded by the state, several individuals recognised the dangers of platforming and humanising the assassin of Rajiv Gandhi, and took to Twitter to condemn the guest lecture.

Political analyst Sumanth Raman expressed shock at the decision by ACJ to host AG Perarivalan.

Others said that perhaps they have served their time and must be released, however, painting them as innocent does no good to the society.

The lecture of Perarivalan has been titled “The denial of justice and a quest unfinished”, which in itself indicates the institution’s intention of painting the criminal as an innocent victim of the Indian state. However, that is not all. The initiative by NLU Delhi, in collaboration with ACJ, has gone a step ahead and claimed that the Indian judiciary and the system in general dehumanised Perarivalan. They also claim that his release was ordered after “grave doubts were cast on his role in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination”.

Who is AG Perarivalan and how are Project35 and ACJ wrong about him being “innocent”

50-year-old A G Perarivalan, alias Arivu, is the son of Tamil poet Kuyildasan. When he was a teenager, he was a sympathiser of LTTE and on the evening of 21st May 1991, when former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at a rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, he was 19 years old.

On the 11th of June 1991, Perarivalan was arrested for his role in the assassination. He was convicted because it was proven that he bought the two nine-volt batteries used in the bomb belt and handed them over to LTTE chief Sivarasan, the mastermind of the operation. Perarivalan at that time had confessed to his crime under TADA (a law that has now been discontinued). “Moreover, I bought two nine-volt battery cells (Golden Power) and gave them to Sivarasan. He used only these to make the bomb explode”, his confession had read. However, the CBI officer who had recorded his statement later claimed in a documentary that he had tampered with the statement and added his interpretation to it, whereas, Perarivalan had claimed that he had no knowledge that the batteries would be used to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi.

Tamil documentary ‘Uyirvali – Sakkiyadikkum Satham‘ had the CBI officer, Thiagarajan’s, “confession” about the lapse in recording the statement and how Perarivalan was ‘innocent’ according to him. “What is pricking me is that at that time Arivu (Perarivalan) told me that he didn’t know why he was being asked to buy them (the batteries) and what they will do with them. He told me that he didn’t know about it at all. But while writing the confession statement I omitted the part where he said he didn’t know about it at all. The investigation was progressing then but I didn’t write that particular statement.” he says in the documentary.

It is pertinent to note that the confession of the convicted criminal was upheld by the Supreme Court.

It is this statement by the CBI officer, however, that has been used repeatedly to claim that Perarivalan is “innocent”, however, what is often excluded is the fact that the CBI officer, in this case, has a questionable past, that makes his statement shrouded in doubt. In the sister Abhaya case, who was found dead in a well at the St Pius X Convent in Kottayam, Kerala on March 27, 1992, Thiagarajan had reportedly played a pivotal role in trying to skirt justice being served. He had reportedly pressurised his subordinate Varghese P Thomas to conclude that Sister Abhaya committed suicide and was not murdered. Under his pressure, The crime branch had recorded that Abhaya had committed suicide as she got only 7 marks out of 100 in her first-year pre-degree examination. However, it was later established that she was murdered and Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy were convicted in the case.

In 1998, AG Perarivalan was sentenced to death by a TADA court. While ACJ wants to convince people that Perarivalan is “innocent”, a timeline of his case summarily proves that his conviction was unheld several times and his release was also a product of technicality, rather than his innocence being proven.

  1. After the TADA court awarded the death penalty to Perarivalan and 25 others in January 1998, in May 1999, Supreme Court upheld the death penalty.
  2. In October 1999, Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed.
  3. In October itself, a clemency petition was filed which was subsequently rejected by the Tamil Nadu Governor.
  4. In April 2000, Tamil Nadu Cabinet headed by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi recommends the Governor of the state commute the death sentence awarded to Nalini. Congress President Sonia Gandhi also appealed to the President of India to commute her death sentence. This was accepted by the Governor. It was only days later that the Governor forwarded the mercy petition of Santhan, Murugan, and Perarivalan to the President of India. This mercy petition was rejected in August 2011.
  5. On 30th August 2011, Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalitha moved a resolution in the assembly demanding that the death sentence of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan be commuted to life imprisonment. On the very same day, the Madras HC stayed the execution of the three and the case was sent to the Supreme Court.
  6. On 18th February 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of the convicts to life imprisonment. This decision by the Supreme Court came because the President had taken 11 years to decide on the clemency petition, rejecting his petition only in 2011. “The fact that no time limit is prescribed to the President/Governor for disposal of the mercy petition should compel the government to work in a more systematised manner to repose the confidence of the people in the institution of democracy…” Justice Sathasivam had noted. It is pertinent to note here that when the sentence was reduced, there was no judgement on the conviction of the accused. They were still convicted, however, it was because of the technicality of delay in deciding the mercy petition that the Supreme Court decided to change the death sentence to life imprisonment.
  7. A day later, on the 19th of February 2014, politics took over and the Tamil Nadu cabinet headed by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa decides to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
  8. A day later, on the 20th of February 2014, the Congress government approached the Supreme Court against the release of convicts, including Perarivalan.
  9. In December 2015, Periravalan submits a mercy petition yet again to the TN governor and moves Supreme Court seeking release.
  10. In 2017, the Tamil Nadu government grants parole to Perarivalan.
  11. in 2018, the Supreme Court decides that the Governor has the right to decide on the mercy petition filed by the convict.
  12. On September 9th 2018, Tamil Nadu Cabinet headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami recommended the release of all seven convicts and it was in 2021 that the Supreme Court asked the central government to take a decision within 3 months on the TN government’s decision to release the convicts.
  13. In February 2021, the central government went back to the Supreme Court saying that they believed that instead of the TN govt, the President of India was the right authority to decide on the remission of the convicted.
  14. Till 2021, the DMK government kept extending the parole granted to Perarivalan.
  15. On 15th March 2022, Perarivalan walked out of jail on bail for the first time. After the Supreme Court granted him bail, he requested the Vellore Superintendent of Police to cancel his parole and take him to prison so he can walk out of there on bail. Pertinently, the court had only observed that he had been granted parole twice, without complaint, and that he had served a long sentence already, and therefore was entitled to bail. He was still convicted. A bench presided by Justice L Nageswara Rao said “Since he has already undergone sentence for more than 30 years, we are of the considered view that he is entitled to bail in spite of the vehement opposition by Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj”.
  16. On 18th May 2022, the Supreme Court ordered the release of Perarivalan exercising its special powers. “Taking into account the Appellant’s prolonged period of incarceration, his satisfactory conduct in jail as well as during parole, chronic ailments from his medical records, his educational qualifications acquired during incarceration and the pendency of his petition under Article 161 for two and a half years after the recommendation of the State Cabinet, we do not consider it fit to remand the matter for the Governor’s consideration. In the exercise of our power under Article 142 26 | P a g e of the Constitution, we direct that the Appellant is deemed to have served the sentence in connection with Crime No. 329 of 1991. The Appellant, who is already on bail, is set at liberty forthwith. His bail bonds are cancelled“, the court had said. The Supreme Court had earlier said that the Tamil Nadu governor was bound by the decision of the state cabinet on the release of Perarivalan, and disapproved of his action, sending the mercy plea to the President saying it cannot shut eyes to something against the Constitution. The top court had refused to agree with the Centre’s suggestion that the court should wait till the President decides on the issue. It had told the Centre that the governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers under Article 161 of the Constitution while directing the Centre to submit its response. It is therefore evident that the release of Perarivalan was a product of the Tamil Nadu government’s politics and not his innocence.

Given the chronology, for ACJ and Project 39A to claim that Perarivalan was “innocent” and a product of state persecution is absurd. It not only whitewashes a convicted criminal who was a part of the plot to assassinate but also justifies the assassination of the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, which must be seen as an act of terrorism and war in itself.

ACJ (Asian College of Journalism) and its links – including that to The Hindu’s N Ram

Asian College of Journalism is considered one of the leading institutions in the field. According to its website, the college is run by Media Development Foundation.

The website says:

The Media Development Foundation, a not-for-profit public trust, was established in 1999 to foster journalism as an independent, investigative, socially responsible, and ethical profession. It aims to promote excellence in the field through education, training, and media-related research. It seeks to equip aspiring modern journalists with the capabilities to achieve world-class standards in the profession. It is committed to promoting diversity and broadening access to journalism by offering educational and training opportunities to all groups in society, including those who are severely underrepresented in the journalistic profession.

The Trustees of the Foundation are Sashi Kumar (Chairman), journalist, TV anchor, filmmaker and Chairman, Asiaville Interactive; N. Ram, Director, The Hindu Publishing Group; C. P. Chandrasekhar, former Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and columnist; Radhika Menon, Managing Editor of Tulika Publishers; and N. Murali, Chairman, Kasturi and Sons Limited.

In pursuit of its goal, in 2000 the Foundation took over, by agreement with the parent B. D. Goenka Foundation, the Asian College of Journalism, which had been functioning successfully for six years in Bangalore. The College was moved to Chennai and its course content was restructured and broadened. The first class graduated in June 2001.

N Ram of The Hindu is the founding trustee of the Media Development Foundation, which owns and runs ACJ, which is now hosting a criminal.

It is pertinent to note that N Ram had actively worked in trying to derail the fighter jet deal by publishing fake news on The Hindu. During the run-up to 2019 general elections, he had published cropped and incomplete pictures of documents in The Hindu to allege government wrongdoing in the Rafale deal – a deal that was exonerated by the Supreme Court later. The Hindu under N Ram has also been furthering the Chinese Community Party’s propaganda for a long time, as documented by OpIndia. In fact, an article in The Hoot explains how The Hindu had to balance its criticism of LTTE and also be sympathetic towards the terror organisation because a substantial part of its reader base held sympathies for the LTTE. It is therefore no surprise that N Ram is today endorsing giving a platform to a criminal convicted of helping in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

The Chairman of Media Development Foundation Shashi Kumar, on the other hand, is also someone who clearly harbours sentiments towards the Left. He had recently approached the court against sedition laws. The arrest of PFI footsoldiers like Siddique Kappan and other anti-national elements formed the basis of his petition.

While supporting Leftists and Islamic extremists, Shashi Kumar had also filed a petition against “hate speech” by Hindus. Hate speech in media should not be allowed to be disguised as free speech or religious freedom by majoritarian forces, veteran journalist Sashi Kumar said in an intervention application in the Supreme Court. While demanding freedom for anti-India forces like Disha Ravi and Siddique Kappan, he argued in favour of 153A, mainly because speech offends the sensibilities of Islamists.

“It is an irony that instances of publications and telecasts which amount to an offence under Section 153A of Indian Penal Code [of creating communal disharmony and hatred between communities or groups] are sought to be protected under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution by the majoritarian forces. When the constitutional scheme in this regard is clear, there is no ambiguity warranting legislation”, the intervention application said. The intervention application was filed in the case against Sudarshan News after it aired a show on UPSC Jihad.

With all of this, it is no surprise that a convict would find a place at ACJ. As far as Project 39A is concerned, they are active advocates against the death penalty even intellectualising the death penalty awarded in cases of human sacrifice. Only three weeks ago, Project 39A was conferred the award “for its unwavering commitment and achievements in the fight for abolition” of the death penalty. 

With the strong left bias of ACJ, its founding trustee, its chairman and even Project 39A, it is unsurprising that they would want to paint a convicted criminal as an innocent hounded by the Indian state.

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Searched termsLTTE Rajiv Gandhi
OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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